Full disclosure right upfront – I am terrible at headstand. Yet I love it. It’s an issue for me as a yoga teacher but there it is.
The issue is I can’t really teach it since I nearly always use a wall as a prop and flail my legs because I can get some serious stretches in while upside down. I don’t advise practicing this at home and not even sure if it’s helpful, but it feels natural and gosh darn good so I do it.
I love doing headstand at the gym most of all. Primarily because I can watch people walk by when I’m inverted. It’s highly entertaining – probably a lot like watching aliens walk on the moon. Sometimes I even wonder if the person just has a really bizarre gait or if it just looks that way since I’m upside down.
I’ve gotten used to the 3-minute timeframe, which is how long it takes for the blood to circulate throughout the entire body. And sometimes I’m even diligent enough to do fish pose afterwards for my counter-pose treat.
Now here is what I would advise for headstand if I were a teacher who could practice what I preach:
- Wake up every morning and do headstand right away (after a few sun salutations, of course). Since you get a rush from inversions, it’s a good way to quickly get up and get going with the brightest feeling deep inside.
- I was taught by the masters at Yogaville (check it out) who advised setting up your tripod (on forearms and upper forehead) and (with straight legs) gently moving the tip toes toward the body until they are close enough to your elbows that they float upwards with little effort. (Incidentally, if you have tight hips this may be nearly as difficult as pulling your bottom lip over the top of your head.)
- Once in headstand, adding a lotus by moving your legs into the shape of a pretzel can further open the hips.
- Post-headstand, staying in child’s pose for a few breaths can be helpful (I can do this!). Then fish or camel pose to loosen up any tightness that may have built up in the shoulders or upper back. Counterposes are important for restoring balance in the body, particularly after more challenging poses such as headstand (sirsasana in sanskrit).
If you do only one yoga pose, go for this one as it can change your perspective. Best done in the morning as an energizer. If you start against the wall, it will quickly get easier and intuitive to kick the legs up the wall. Over time, start to move away to work on balance. (Ok, I cheat a lot… but still enjoy a good headstand without a wall when I’m feeling balance-curious.)
Sirsasana is especially helpful for runners for faster recovery times. In fact, I’ve fantasized about doing headstand at aid stations, not sure if it would be altogether helpful but certainly sounds like a good idea worth checking out. Just need to figure out how to avoid getting dirt in my hair, not that details like that ever stopped me. Maybe handstand?!?
Seriously, try it out as it will change your perspective (obviously… you are upside down). Tune in to the energizing feeling in the body and dive in deep to all the amazing loveliness of this one.
Om Shanti. Shanti. Shanti.